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Week 3: March 12-25

Yes, week three is 14 days long. The weekend of the 17 and 18 was taken up with a special project for work (having nothing to do with wood), and helping set up a computer for a friend from Colombia. But Saturday the 24th saw some progress being made again!

I bought a new dozuki saw to replace one that had seen better days and too many close-ups of the concrete floor in my shop. These saws are incredible, getting a bite with the merest touch and able to shear away a wafer from the side of ... the headstock in this case. The sides of the headstock are cut away to the familiar taper. I also learned how to set the camera to take a timed shot, so there will be more "action" shots like this one. Note how the left thumb guides the cut. The right forefinger focuses the energy of the driving hand and directs it along the line of the cut. Naw, really, it's just the way I cut.

The dozuki makes the long cut down the side and another where the peghead angles in a bit, then the coping saw is used to turn the cut down along the side of the neck. I'm not exact with a coping saw, so this cut is just to hog away some wood so I can get at the sides of the headstock to plane it smooth and straight.

Here it is with the one side coped. You can see the two dozuki cuts on the right, one along the long, shallow angle, and one right through the first cut, making the short, slightly steeper angle down to the nut seat. No, I didn't make a 90-degree turn with the coping saw on the left; I used the dozuki to meet the coping saw cut and remove the block of wood. If you look closely at the coping saw cut on the left, you'll see it wavers a bit. I have a bear of a time cutting straight with a coping saw, or following a curve. I keep clear of the line, though, and I'll clean it up later. By the way, the peghead shape was marked by cutting out the peghead from the second set of plans and tracing around it. I found that the width of the peghead at the nut on these plans was substantially less than that of the neck at the nut. I tried to figure out why this could be and finally decided it was a mistake, and adjusted accordingly.

Here's another action shot, showing how it's a bad idea to try to take too many of these. It helps for those who can't read, though. Here I'm planing down the side of the headstock to smooth away the saw marks. The dozuki leaves very little in the way of saw marks!

After trimming the top edge of the peghead off with the dozuki: here's a really cool plane curl that came off the side of the peghead. Next to the dark rosewood and mahogany, the thin edge of the maple veneer looks like Oreo filling.

I marked the location of the holes for the tuning machines by taping down the pattern from the plans and tapping a nail through at the appropriate places. I had to tape it down because the rosewood is so hard that just pushing the nail with my hand didn't leave enough of a visible mark. 

The drill shown here was actually spinning when the photo was taken! It's a brad-point bit, which has a separate sharp point dead center. If it were a regular bit, I'd clamp the neck down for each hole, because the bit will wander. In case you can't tell from the table, this is a drill press. It's difficult to drill these holes straight enough with a hand drill, but possible. Note the backing board underneath the peghead; this is to keep the exiting drill bit from chipping out pieces of the wood around the edge of the hole. The photo angle makes it look like the bit is not vertical to the surface of the headstock, but it definitely is. 

Look, Mom, no chip-out! You can see a little fuzz, though, on the two lowest holes.

So, here's the first part that's looking a little bit like a guitar. Had to show this view. The roughness down by the nut will be carved away later when the neck is shaped. 

Here's the first step at shaping the heel; cutting away most of the heelblock. The choppy appearance of the curve is caused by having to back up the bandsaw blade and re-angle to make the curve. I still have the 3/4" blade on it that I use for resawing. Keeping the cut quite far from the final curve is a security blanket for an insecure carver. The rest of this operation is done by eye, and I want to have a large margin for error in putting the 'point' on the heel.
The cheeks where the heelblock is wider than the neck are removed with the bandsaw. In Cumpiano and Natelson, visible here behind the neck, it says not to come closer than 1/8" from the line where the edge of the fingerboard will go, but it's not quite clear whether they mean sideways or below or both. Later it's clear they at least mean not to carve all the way up to the corner from below. I keep away both ways.

The first step is to make a straight "ramp" from the fingerboard edge (or rather just below it) to the corner of the bottom of the heel. I did this with a 1" chisel. The cutting went quickly, because the mahogany is soft and fibrous. 

The next step is to "concave" the ramp to the outer curve of the heel shape. The sides of this curve are still straight along the direction of the length of the neck; no curving toward the point of the heel is tried yet. This will establish the contour of the part of the heel that meets the guitar body. Cumpiano and Natelson  use a specially modified chisel to make this and other cuts in carving the heel; I prefer a knife. This is a knife of a pretty ordinary contour, similar to a Sloyd knife. It's from Woodcraft, and they just call it a Swedish carving knife.

Here the concave shape is established. The next step is to knock off the corners, establishing a second facet tangent to the curve marked out for the bottom of the heel, blending up to the neck shaft. I started in carving that with the knife seen above, and didn't stop for a picture until...


Here's the heel carved into the neck shaft. The shaping of the rest of the neck shaft will wait until later on. The knife carving here was followed with the scraper to smooth out the tiny ridges between knife cuts. And that's it for this weekend. Tune in next week, or, if you're not following along in real time, click the link below to see the rosette inlaid into the top, and other exciting procedures!

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Copyright 2001 Stephen Miklos